“There are so many things that kids care about, where they excel, where they try hard, where they learn important life lessons, that are not picked up by test scores.”
Grit, Angela Duckworth
Despite the very best efforts of the pandemic, we find ourselves looking at the start of a new summer term in school. Our juniors were able to return to school and have enjoyed life by the river this week and the seniors are set to return on Monday unless there are some major and unexpected announcements to be made this weekend. Whilst much is different, I am pleased to be able to report that the banks of the Seine remain a wonderful place for a school.
This is a short term: we have only forty school days left until we break for the summer. Before we know where we are we will be considering prize giving and thinking about the summer holidays. In the normal course of the school year, we would be gearing up for public exams but not so this year. Whilst it is not a year for “normal” GCSEs and A levels it will be a year that will be remembered for tests. Since I last wrote, I’ve had six tests, all a little eye watering, and not because I had forgotten to revise: I’m sure I am not alone in this well-travelled community in having an all too familiar relationship with the PCR test. This week I was informed that we will not be part of the national roll out of school-based testing, if there is a suspicion of symptoms then the best place to go is a local testing station or pharmacy for confirmation- the only consolation is that the queues are shorter than they were a few months ago.
Indeed, the only testing that we are likely to see this term are internal academic tests and the newly created mini-assessments. This comparative scarcity of summer term testing may well be the sign of changing educational attitudes and out of this mire of COVID we could see a new approach to assessment; one that relies on a steady, consistent approach rather than relying on the single measure of a summertime exam. This week the exam board AQA suggested that there would be no “leap back to normality” when it comes to the exams they have planned for 2021 and I think this is an approach that we should welcome. Whatever change looks like it will be important for us all to ensure that we do not replace the high-pressure approach of terminal exams with an equally harmful constant treadmill pressure of continuous assessed tasks. There is surely room for a degree of new thinking in this regard and as criticism of the current system has been made by none other than the Education Minister who oversaw the introduction of GCSE in 1998 it will perhaps come.
Although short, this term is important and for some it is their last term here at the BSP. No matter what is thrown at us we are committed to making it a most successful one whatever form it takes!
During the course of the day, we learned the sad news regarding the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. Over the course of his public life the Duke committed to a life in which service was the primary focus. During the coronation ceremony in 1953 he promised to support the Queen in her leadership of both the Nation and the Commonwealth and this he did for the rest of his life. In this endeavour he remained steadfast and unwavering. Whilst not everyone agreed with everything that he said, or is reported to have said, it is undoubtedly the case that many have benefited from what may be his greatest legacy, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. His vision and drive in this regard have been of inestimable value for young people all over the world who have had this life enhancing experience. He was a little blunter about the benefits of the award scheme describing it as a “do it yourself kit in the art of civilised living”. We are proud to offer the International Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at The British School of Paris.
A little-known element of Prince Philip’s life is that he spent some time being educated in St. Cloud not so very far away from us here in Croissy. A child who boasted a heritage that was Greek, Danish, and Russian he was for many the epitome of an Englishman. If we are to remember his contribution to the wider community, we are perhaps correct to recognise his unswerving commitment to service, be that to the World Wildlife Fund, Action on Hearing Loss, the National Playing Fields Movement or The Queen. A child influenced by a worldwide community, who showed initiative, drive and who grew up to dedicate his life to service he perhaps provides a suitable model for our own pupils as they seek to discover the path they will take in life.
Our thoughts are with The Queen and the Royal Family at this time as they mourn the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.”
Mark Twain “Puddin’ Head Wilson and Other Stories”
There is an art to a really effective practical joke. I’d thought it was something of a lost art, a tradition that had gently slipped away. As it happens the obituary for this rather innocent form of fun is rather premature and it turns out present at the BSP. Perhaps the most effective school based practical jokes are those that are subtle, those that catch the eye of the hapless Headmaster just enough to persuade him to take the bait, the hook, the line and the sinker. I was well and truly caught yesterday lunchtime by a Year 11 pupil who had decided to enjoy a bottle of beer with his hot dog and chips. Of course, there was nothing more than water in the bottle, he’d planned his stunt carefully and yes, I fell for it entirely – much to the good-natured amusement of all who were in the refectory. I am sure there were many other celebrations of the Poisson d’avril tradition and I’m sure that they were well received.
I believe a school that is able to laugh together is a school that works more effectively than one in which laughter is not heard. Some well-placed humour can make a lesson move along at a new pace, it can be welcoming for new pupils and it is often the thing that is remembered long after a pupil has left the school. Sometimes, of course, the joke is not appreciated, or it is ill considered, and it does not help in the building of a healthy community spirit. It is perhaps days like the 1st April that give our pupils the chance to find out what makes a joke funny not just for them but for everyone. If each pupil gains an understanding of the fine line between funny and upsetting, then we will have given them a useful skill indeed.
Good humour will undoubtedly be required in the coming weeks. Remote schooling is no joke, but those who are able to meet the challenge with a regular smile will flourish. It is likely that there will be moments of frustration (my link is down and you are on mute spring to mind) and if that is the case then the support functions of the school, our pastoral team is ready to help.
The educational writer Dave Keeling has studied humour in schools, and should you be feeling that you might be in need of a laugh or perhaps more importantly to understand why you need to have a laugh or smile even when we aren’t in school – follow this link: https://consiliumeducation.com/itm/2020/04/27/laughter/
and if that was not enough my latest favourite subject based jokes (well three of them):
Why can’t you trust an atom? They make up everything. ‘What’s the difference between a joist and a girder? Joyce wrote “Ulysses” and Goethe wrote “Faust” Who invented fractions? Henry the Eighth.